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Cordless Creativity

New portable tools include a battery-powered generator, lights that won’t fall over, and an electric screwdriver

Woodworkers are being swept off their feet by a tidal wave of new brushless, battery powered tools. From a woodshop’s point of view, that’s a good thing because the fierce competition is giving us better tools at lower prices. One can still choose to pay for top-end quality, but many of the ‘cheaper’ brands have vastly improved their quality too, so we’re definitely getting a lot more bang for the buck.

The other side of this evolution is innovation. Manufacturers are making tools more portable and jobsite friendly, but they’re also adding new categories beyond the familiar drills and saws. These special tools are making life a little easier when an outlet is hard to find.

Centipede from Bora Tools

Centipede from Bora Tools

A good example of special tools is the new Carry-On power supply from Milwaukee Tool that brings 110-volt outlets to the jobsite. The MXF002-2XC can supply 3,600 peak watts and 1,800 running watts to power anything from a boombox to a small compressor. This is a generator without the noise, the gas or the carbon monoxide, so it’s ideal for indoor use. It uses Milwaukee’s MX Fuel battery power and delivers enough juice to simultaneously run a 15-amp tool plus one lower wattage device such as a phone charger. The Carry-On can be powered by either one or two batteries (two will give you twice the run time but not twice as much current). And it can be tracked and protected on the jobsite using Milwaukee’s One-Key system.

Bosch JS120 jigsaw

Bosch JS120 jigsaw

Ryobi’s engineering department has come up with an unusual new saw, the P555. Running on the company’s 18-volt system, it will cut wood, plastic, drywall, soft metals and many other materials. It can make 1” deep plunge cuts and do straight cuts in tight spaces – the blade is very close to the edge, so it can cut right next to walls, backsplashes and the like. It cuts tile and thin non-ferrous metals and has an edge guide for straight cuts. The P555 arrives with a 3-3/8” wood blade, a diamond abrasive blade, and a high-speed steel (HSS) metal blade.

Makita USA presents the cordless, brushless cut-out tool (the XOC02Z) that has the company’s Auto-Start wireless Bluetooth connection. On a cabinet install, it can cut through drywall (up to an inch thick), tile, wood, thin metal and more. It accepts both 1/8” and 1/4” bits.

Makita also has a new 31″ tall cordless/corded LED worklight that has some clever features. The self-righting light won’t fall over and it delivers 360 degrees of illumination. It can run up to 15 hours on two 5.0Ah 18-volt, according to the company.

New and improved

Several manufacturers are upgrading traditional tools, too, and often making them smaller and lighter. The new JS120 from Bosch is a one-handed, barrel grip, 12-volt jigsaw that’s only 9.4” long and weighs just 3 lbs. without the battery. It has three-stage orbital action and a counterbalanced plunge mechanism that gets rid of most of the vibration when making a plunge cut. The JS120 tilts 45 degrees and it can cut through softwood up to 2-1/2” thick.

Milwaukee 2526-20 oscillating multi-tool.

Milwaukee 2526-20 oscillating multi-tool.

DeWalt has introduced a reciprocating saw (DCS386B) and a 4.5/5” cordless grinder (DCG416B) with its Flexvolt Advantage technology for power adjustment. The grinder has a kickback brake and E-Clutch system, which are good examples of how tools are getting smarter. That’s true of Fein USA’s new precision cordless screwdriver (ASM 18-3 PC), which can be used with all Fein li-ion batteries. The tool can recognize whether it’s 12- or 18-volt. And Milwaukee Tool’s relatively new M18 Fuel Sawzall comes with the company’s Redlink Plus electronics that deliver maximum performance under stress and also protect the tool from overloading, overheating, and over discharging. The same technology also protects the company’s new oscillating multi-tool (2526-20).

Senco’s DuraSpin auto-feed screw systems have had a number of upgrades recently that make life a little easier on the jobsite, including feed-on-return, which means that screws are in place before you drive, and a tool-free adjustable nosepiece that delivers a better line of sight and better access in tight corners.

Coming soon from Ryobi is the PSBRS01B, a one-handed, cordless, brushless reciprocating saw that is 31 percent more compact and 24 percent lighter than the company’s P516 model (which has a brush motor). The saw runs at 0 to 3,000 strokes per minute and has a fairly aggressive 5/8″ stroke length so it can handle most materials. There’s an on-board LED worklight, a quick release button for easy blade changes, and an adjustable pivoting shoe. It comes with a 6” wood cutting blade and a three-year warranty. No word yet on when it will be available (or the price, although we’ve seen mention of $99 for the bare tool), but they usually announce new tools within a few weeks of release.

Milwaukee’s Carry-On power supply

Milwaukee’s Carry-On power supply

Makita’s LED worklight

Makita’s LED worklight

And despite the tendency to sell tools and batteries separately, some brands are still including chargers and batteries with special tools, perhaps as a way to encourage woodworkers to buy into their power system. The WX840L from Worx is a 20-volt nail gun that shoots both brad nails and crown staples, and it comes with a 2.0 Ah battery and charger.

Power-free performers

Not everything new for the jobsite runs on a battery. Among the newest offerings from Festool USA is the STM 1800, a mobile saw table and workbench (item 205183, $995). This is a folding unit that supports full or partial sheets of stock during cutting and milling operations. It was created in the tradition of Festool’s legendary portable saw guidance system, and it allows a single operator to handle very large parts on the jobsite, and even roll them around if necessary. It’s ideal for cutting or routing sheet goods, but it can also be used as an assembly bench onsite for RTA cabinets. The footprint is adjustable to the working environment and material size, and the height is adjustable from 27-5/8” to 35-7/16” in 2” increments. It has robust locking casters and a 71” square worktop support area.

A less expensive option is the collection of Centipede work stands from Bora Tool. Starting at less than $100, this system offers a huge variety of sizes and accessories. The basic building block is a set of legs that fold up like an umbrella for easy transport and storage and open up to support sheet stock or worktables. The small 2’ x 4’ model has the same heavy-duty steel construction as the CK15S, which delivers a full 4’ x 8’ platform ($199). The struts are flexible to absorb the impact of heavy objects and machinery, and durable enough to ensure long-lasting, smooth operation. Each strut (leg) has a durable polymer P-Top, which is designed to avoid marking the surface of a project or letting saw blades cause damage to the struts. The available workbench tops are drilled with a standard 20mm MFT type dog hole pattern, and various clamps are available.


SawTrax, which is probably best known for vertical panel saws, has a vibrant and very innovative division that supplies various jobsite carts and dollies. Recently upgraded, the Raised Safety Dolly is a version of the company’s standard Yel-Low Safety Dolly which has a very low platform. The new version is raised with four locking casters that offer four inches of ground clearance for rougher terrain. A woodworker has the option of using the dolly inside in the low configuration, or outside with the wheels mounted to the corners.

This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue.  

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